I had an epiphany during the season of Epiphany, that post-Christmas celebration in the Christian calendar which acknowledges the arrival of the Magi at the place where Jesus was born. They travel long distances to give homage to the Messiah and have their own epiphany, their own 'AH-HA' moment when they recognized Jesus as the One for whom they had been waiting.
Last month I had occasion to attend the annual conference organized by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force called 'Creating Change.' The theme for this year's event was the LGBT community's advocacy efforts and engagement of such advocacy at the intersections of other justice issues and movement. It was a powerful event, and the presence of leaders from the interfaith community signaled that justice for all of God's children is at the heart of our faith commitments.
The following week, I joined with leaders from United Church of Christ congregations, seminaries, conferences and our national denominational office in North Carolina to participate in a state-wide Moral March. This grassroots movement has been witnessing at the state capital every Monday during the past year for fairness for North Carolinians on a wide range of concerns. My colleague and president from the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Rev. Peter Morales, also attended.
The Moral March was organized by people of North Carolina and led by the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, to protest actions of the governor and state legislature that are harmful to the residents of North Carolina, especially African Americans, women, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons, immigrants living in the state, and persons with disabilities. Here were people organizing and advocating together across a wide spectrum of life experiences who understood that their issues converged.
As I reflected on these two experiences that happened, it became clear to me that I had experienced something special, a kind of mountain-top moment.
The 'Creating Change' conference was a conference that gathered people who have been marginalized, pushed aside, made to feel less than others and unaccepted as equals - sometimes in their own families, sometimes in the churches that had once been their spiritual families, and too often in all kinds of places and situations in daily life. The Moral March was also a gathering of people who have been marginalized and left out.
My epiphany was this: Deep inside I heard a voice saying to me, "This is where you belong! This is where I am doing a new thing!" I realized that indeed it was not just about me as an African American man. At each event, we were the Beloved Community together and the voice from on high, the voice of God, the still speaking voice, that was saying to us, "This is where I am working with and through my people to transform and transfigure the world. Ah-ha! Do you not perceive it?"
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black is general minister and president of the United Church of Christ.
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